woman doctor treating child

OK, hands up. Who regularly consults their doctor when they’re feeling ill? Not everyone that’s reading this blog I suspect. I certainly don’t.

There’s one doctor you should always go to when you’re providing first aid – DR ABC. They’ll tell you what to do.

In case you hadn’t guessed, DR ABC isn’t a real doctor. It’s an acronym we tell people to remember on our first aid courses. Here’s what it stands for:

  • Danger
  • Response
  • Airway
  • Breathing
  • Circulation (or compressions)

First things first, danger. Before treating someone you need to look out for dangers. You don’t want to become a casualty yourself! So if there’s a rampaging bull, staring you down in a field your walking colleague has broken their ankle in, get them (or the bull!) out of the field first. Or just remove the danger in any other scenario.

Next, look for a response. Speak in both their ears. Shake their shoulders. Say you’re there to help. Getting anything back? Good, that’s them responding. Next we need to check their breathing.

To do that, we ensure an open airway by tilting their head back by placing one hand on their forehead and two fingers underneath their chin. You can clear any visible obstructions from the nose or mouth, but don’t go beyond their teeth, or you might lose a digit!

The b stands for breathing. Check how often they’re breathing by looking, listening and feeling for breath on your cheek. At least once in ten seconds? Good. Sure there’s no breath? Start CPR.

C stands for circulation and/or compressions. If they’re not breathing normally, you should be doing 30 compressions as part of CPR. But you should also be mindful of signs of bleeding and problems with the circulatory system (that’ll be another blog post in itself). If there’s an issue there, it can be life threatening.

So why is DR ABC so important? It’s an excellent reference point to come back to for any first aid scenario you face. If you remember your DR ABC, and always check your casualty along with this particularly useful doctor, you’ll be on to a winner.

Image © Patrick Fuller/ ICRC